The Shortest History of Italy: 3,000 Years from the Romans to the Renaissance to a Modern Republic - A Retelling for Our Times (Paperback)

The Shortest History of Italy: 3,000 Years from the Romans to the Renaissance to a Modern Republic - A Retelling for Our Times By Ross King Cover Image

The Shortest History of Italy: 3,000 Years from the Romans to the Renaissance to a Modern Republic - A Retelling for Our Times (Paperback)

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Discover the prodigious global influence of il bel paese in this star-studded retelling of Italy’s past—from a foremost author of historic Italy. The Shortest History books deliver thousands of years of history in one riveting, fast-paced read.


“Each page brims with Bill Bryson-like trivia that is sure to delight.”—Booklist, starred review


The calendar. The Senate. The university. The piano, the heliocentric model, and the pizzeria. It’s hard to imagine a world without Italian influence—and easy to assume that inventions like these could only come from a strong, stable peninsula, sure of its place in the world. In this breakneck history, bestselling author Ross King dismantles this assumption, uncovering the story of a land rife with inner uncertainty even as its influence spread.  


As the Italian tale unfolds, prosperity and power fluctuate like the elevation in the Dolomites. If Rome’s seven hills could talk, they might speak of the glorious time of Trajan—or bemoan the era of conquest and the Bubonic Plague that decimated Rome’s population. Episodes of wealth like the First Triumvirate and the time of the Medicis are given fresh life alongside descriptions of the Middle Ages, the early days of Venice, the invasion of Napoleon, and the long struggle for unification.  


Highlighting key events and personalities, King paints a vibrant portrait of a country whose political and cultural legacies enrich our lives today. 



Ross King is the author of many bestselling books on Italian history and art, including Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling and Brunelleschi’s Dome. He lectures widely on Renaissance art at museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Frick Collection, and the National Gallery, and is a regular participant in Italian Renaissance seminars at the Aspen Institute. He lives in the historic town of Woodstock, near Oxford, England.

Product Details ISBN: 9781891011450
ISBN-10: 1891011456
Publisher: The Experiment
Publication Date: April 16th, 2024
Pages: 272
Language: English
Series: Shortest History
Known for his impeccable research and engaging style, King is the perfect Virgil to guide us from The Aeneid to COVID-19 in this densely packed volume of tantalizing details. . . . King has a keen eye for the provocative anecdote, ranging from the debauchery of the emperors to papal history and the origins of the Mafia. . . . Each page brims with Bill Bryson-like trivia that is sure to delight.

— Booklist, starred review

Terrific . . . a lucid, riveting history of a country that is both exquisitely old and painfully young at the same time.
— Sarah Dunant, bestselling author of In the Name of the Family

A remarkably readable whirlwind tour of Italian history over the millennia, replete with conquerors, emperors, slaves, popes, assorted invaders, and filled with juicy historical nuggets. There’s nothing quite like it.
— David Kertzer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Pope and Mussolini and The Pope at War

A rollicking introduction to the history of a country that, until barely 150 years ago, was not one. Vibrant, admirably clear, and often wryly amusing, Ross King’s narrative benefits again and again from his eye for the telling detail—a splendid achievement.
— John Hooper, author of The Italians and Italy correspondent for The Economist

Jump into the Alfa Romeo and hold tight as Ross King speeds through Italian history with this effervescent and entertaining guide to the peninsula’s past.
— Catherine Fletcher, author of The Beauty and the Terror and The Black Prince of Florence

History exerts a force [in Italy] that is multifaceted and ambiguous, especially to the outsider—but The Shortest History of Italy helps to render the country coherent.

— The Saturday Paper (Australia)

Few have as much insight into the history of Italy as the author of Brunelleschi’s Dome, and here Ross King offers a masterful and perceptive account of Italian virtues—and sins—from the Romans to Berlusconi, as well as the country’s inimitable art and architecture. An ideal handbook for anyone who loves Italy and wants to dig a little deeper into the past of what Dante called il bel paese, or as Ross King puts it, Italy’s history of ‘resilience and rebirth.’

— Richard Owen, author of DH Lawrence in Italy, Hemingway in Italy, and Chaucer’s Italy

Praise for Ross King



"King has made a career elucidating crucial episodes in the history of art and architecture.

— Time

King has the gift of clear, unpretentious exposition, and an instinctive narrative flair.
— The Guardian

[King’s] scrupulous excavation of social, political and religious texts, as well as art historical sources, permits him to tell a familiar story as though it had never been told before.
— Financial Times

King is a deft storyteller.
— Telegraph